Motoring: Rich man, Porsche man

Yuppies loved them (and, whisper it, Adolf Hitler was an early customer). But Michael Booth has never been a Porsche fan. Until now, that is...
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I have resisted the allure of the Porsche 911 my entire car-cognisant life. Ferdinand Porsche designed cars for Hitler, thus, as a child, a 911 was the bad guy's car. My hero of the time, Jim Rockford, wouldn't be seen dead in "an ass-engined Nazi slot car" - to borrow PJ O'Rourke's famous phrase - and so, up until the age of about 12, I dreamed of a Pontiac Firebird, preferably with a flying eagle decal on the bonnet.

As I matured, though, I realised that to own a Firebird you had to live in Norfolk, marry your cousin and listen to Billy Ray Cyrus. So I moved on to more sophisticated machinery, such as Citroen SMs and Captain Scarlet's car. But I retained my blind spot for the 911. The car magazines I devoured behind the bike sheds - which, now I come to write it, may explain why I didn't lose my virginity until last month - regularly ran features in which Lamborghinis, Ferraris and Aston Martins would turn up leaking fluids, burning clutches and generally having nervous breakdowns, while the half- price 911 would calmly trounce the lot in terms of performance, practicality and value. But for me it was soulless and sensible - the head boy of cars.

For starters, its resemblance to the Beetle bred a contemptuous over- familiarity that those preposterous "whale tail" rear spoilers of the 1980s did nothing to alleviate. The fact that those doyens of good taste, the Yuppies, chose the 911 as their totem merely confirmed my own discernment. I also knew enough to realise that placing an engine over the rear wheels was a very, very silly thing to do in terms of handling surety, so that, when I finally got to drive a 911, I felt like I was juggling with unstable nuclear warheads.

And then one day, quite recently, I found myself sitting in the driver's seat of the new- generation 911 in the middle of a vast, empty savannah of Tarmac. With no one looking.

You can still detect an essence of Beetle in the latest 911 (perhaps even more so, with its new, old-style round headlights) and it still has the overhanging arse of a pregnant ant. And though the steering wheel no longer fidgets like a hyperactive toddler in your palms, there remained a vestigial fear that, at any point, it might suddenly spear off into the undergrowth turning me into Sussex's answer to James Dean.

But something truly remarkable occurred upon that plain. "Right," I thought, "Let's see just how dangerous this thing really is." I drove to the far end of the area, turned around, brought the revs up to around 6,000rpm and sidestepped the clutch. The car sprang forwards with not a trace of tyre squeal and accelerated like a cheetah's sneeze. At about 60mph I lifted my right foot, yanked the steering violently to the left and, stamped like a navvy on the throttle: the kind of behaviour usually guaranteed to send you spinning like a dervish.

But you know what? The 911 simply changed direction and continued accelerating with only a slight whimper from the tyres. And it did it over, and over, and over again; calmly and with poise. I have never driven such a competent and devastating piece of machinery in my life.

So I take all of it back. The new Porsche 911 defies the laws of nature, is technologically on a par with the most deadly, modern military hardware and represents the apogee of contemporary automotive engineering. But I'd still rather have an Aston. n

Porsche 911 Carrera

Would suit Head boys and girls and Yuppies looking for a modern makeover

Price on the road pounds 58,380

Maximum speed 177mph (0-60mph in 5 seconds)

Combined fuel consumption 25.7mpg

For more information 08457 911 911